A woman from Southeast Saskatchewan is turning to the digital world to create prosthetic fingers for her daughter.
Michelle Wilson's daughter, Brooke, was born with a physical defect. "Brooke was born with, it's called syndactyly, where her fingers are essentially stuck together, and about half the length of what her other hand was." she told Discover Weyburn.
When Brooke was about two, doctors were able to separate the fingers, but they remain about half the length of the fingers on her other hand.
Now at 15 years of age, Brooke is interested in playing music, but at the beginning was limited to how many instruments she can play. "When she was in grade 4 or 5, and picking a musical instrument, she pretty much was only able to play the trumpet, because it had the three keys and only her right hand." said her mother.
Despite her affliction, Brooke's musical skills have expanded since then. "She has a drum set. She plays the piano now. She plays guitar as well, but she plays guitar left-handed so she can do the fingering with her right, which is totally backward to her brain."
Brooke would like play even more instruments, and that's where 3D printing comes in.
Recently, Michelle Wilson learned about a 3D printers at the Estevan Public Library. "We saw an article that the library had posted, about a different library making a prosthetic hand for someone who was born without." added Wilson.
Wilson also learned about a website that specializes in downloadable print files for 3D printers. "I looked it up on Thingiverse, and there are prosthetic fingers that exist, like, the pattern, already. So we just have to print them off, and make it a prototype and see if it'll work for her to play the saxophone and the clarinet and the flute, and a couple of other ones she's interested in trying."
And, if the first prosthetic doesn't work, they'll just try again. "There's another software program where you can actually go in and design from the ground up, and completely design it yourself. So what we're going to do is print one that's already designed, see how it works. And then if it doesn't work, we'll look at making our own thing."
It shouldn't cost much. The library charges 20 cents per gram of material used. At that rate, Wilson expects it would cost between $5 and $10 when the whole thing is done.
Aside wanting to play more musical instruments, Wilson added there are only a few things that give Brooke a challenge because of her hand. "She could never ride a bike with the hand brakes, because she could never, like, hang on and squeeze the hand-brake at the same time. She's never been able to do, like the bars or the rings in gymnastics equipment. But that's pretty much the only thing she's limited for. And flossing." she concluded with a laugh.